Chapter 22 - Dreams
Parting from Tithion's home, the inspectors separated into the damp
night. The rain had slowed to a wet drizzle when the group staggered
up from the catacombs. Jax's position had been replaced by a much
younger man who's young face was masked by a bushy beard. He smiled
and collected the inspector's numbers for their belongings and issued
them in a respectable fashion. True to Jax's word, the weapons had
been dried, oiled, and even polished. Jax was certainly one who
appreciated a clean and well kept blade.
Stepping out under the entryway's awning the moisture clung to the
group, but the air smelled fresh and rich, like a spice that tickled
And there they parted, going their respective ways. Heads hung low
and hands to the brow they hurriedly walked down the paths, hungry and
ready for rest.
After parting ways, Shadow began heading to the small and humble house where he knew Kina
and Dallar would be waiting for him eager to hear of his first day as an
inspector. He would not tell them much; partially because it would be against the
regulations to expose details of an open case, and partially because he was
embarrassed at the lack of information they found.
“Kanth,” Shadow called after the Phylinx lady as she began off to
the barracks. “Would you like to come meet some frriends of mine? Kina can cook
trraditional Phylinx meals to make you feel as you never-r-r left our-r-r
homelands. Dallar-r-r… well, he’s quite a young charmer-r-r. It’s better-r-r
than spending your-r-r night drrowning in testosterrone, yes?”
"Verrry trrue," she replied. "I will accompany you," she stated with
a smile, taking the offered arm of the large Phylinx male. "Home, a
place that seems so far-r-r away at this point. And not in fathoms
rrather-r-r than in mind."
By the time they reached Kina's small home Dallar was fast asleep and Kina seemed
agitated. The young widow welcomed the inspectors in and gave them cloths to dry off, but she
was short on words. Despite Shadow's attempts, Kina refused to say what she was
upset over. But she congratulated Shadow
on getting hired and having an assignment so soon.
It was an awkward evening and sleeping arrangements were spread about the floor.
A morning thunder rolled across the mountains and Hasumatsu-Nimatori stood, still
watching for his pursuers. They had been tracking him ever since he
left his father's home and fled south. The three men, garbed in silk
and lacquered bone armor staggered over the rocks and under the low
hanging branches. Despite the tight trees and jagged trail, the men
had not discarded their long staffed yari. Those long spears meant
one thing; they intended to kill him.
Behind a large boulder, easily twice his size, Nimatori checked his own
weapon; his father's sword. He was not supposed to have the sword so
soon. His father should have lived on for many years. After all, he
was honored and loved. But greed seemed to have thrown its dark
shadow over him. And now he was dead, and Nimatori, his father's sole
heir, was next. The decree was clear, his family would be wiped out
one by one and even the Emperor, whom his father had spoken to
several times, would do nothing to prevent it. It was a matter of
honor. The kind of feud that can only be faced by the heir of the
At first, Nimatori refused to leave, he needed to face his father's
accusers and slay them. But at only fifteen years, he had not the
skill with the sword nor the power of gold. His mother hatched the
plan that led him here. He could still remember her face as she
trembled and fought off the tears. "You must leave. Take your
father's sword and go south through the mountains. When you are ready
you can come back and face this."
"No mother, I can do this now. Let me fight Hi-karo. I can do it. He
is an old fat man."
"Now listen to me my child. Hi-karo will not fight you. He has much
money and his champion is the best swordsman around. I know you will
come back, but now is not the time. If you are slain, no one will be
able to stop him. At least now, if I send you away, they must catch
you and bring you back. That may give me the time to buy off the
debts. And then you can come home to me."
"No, I won't go."
But the decision was already made. His friend, Rokinju traveled
north in disguise with Nimatori's own mother while he snuck out toward
the mountains in the South. But it did not take long for Hi-karo's
men to get wise to the ruse. And here were three and untold numbers
The thunder rolled again. Closer this time.
In the last year, Nimatori had learned quite a bit. He was stronger and
practiced daily with the curved blade. His constant hiking in the
hills and hunting with his steel knives kept his senses and body keen.
But he had not killed another man yet. And despite his bravado, his
hands shook at the possibility of the coming battle.
Breathing as quietly as he could, Nimatori listened from behind the
boulder. The three men did not make an effort to be quiet and one
even hacked a tree limb loudly. "There, a foot print," said one. By
the sound of it, they were directly beneath him on the path.
Cautiously Nimatori peaked around the rock. Stooped down and inspecting
the print, the tracker began looking in all directions. "Up there. He
went up there."
Nimatori's heart lurched and his scalp tingled with fear. Stand and fight
or run? Then it happened and the decision was made for him again.
The boulder slipped from its resting place and toppled down with Nimatori
slipping immediately after. The two standing men stepped out of the
way, but the kneeling tracker was caught unaware as the boulder
rolled over his legs. His screams of pain echoed off bare stone and
the rock tumbled down the hillside with a mighty rumble.
Sliding down to a solid stance, Nimatori grabbed his throwing dagger and
landed an expert shot against the assassin on his right. The knife dug
deep into his shoulder and blood sprayed. Almost instantly, the man
on the left began climbing the rocks to meet Nimatori. The yari's long
blade glistened in the light and Nimatori greeted it with his own
katana's blade. At this distance, he could do nothing but defend
himself as the warrior jabbed and slashed. Nimatori grabbed another of
his small throwing blades but he slipped on the stony slope. Seizing
the advantage, the spear yielding soldier lunged but Nimatori deflected
the blow with only a hair's distance from his throat.
Shoving off the rocky slope, Nimatori slid down to the path below. By
then, the warrior on the right had recovered and was ready with his
spear in hand. Nimatori ducked into the trees and used the branches as
cover to prevent the spearmen from flanking him. Each movement
was geared to keep only one foe facing him at a time. The man with
the crushed legs cried out again. "Come back here and help me!" And
the two seemed to hesitate. Nimatori ducked under a low branch and lunged
in catching the closest assassin off guard. The blade slid effortlessly
between the bone plates until Nimatori could feel it pierce the second
layer of armor on the other side.
With a bit of effort, Nimatori kicked the man's stiffening body free from
his sword. But just as the man crumpled to the ground, his
companion's spear struck full force. Nimatori looked down and watched the
blade slide into his gut. It should have hurt, but he already felt
detached; numb. His legs buckled with an instant weakness and his
eyes grew wide but his vision was already beginning to fade. He could
feel the blade as it slid from his flesh.
"Now you know, Vorn." Said the man who lay slain before him. "This is
how it felt."
And as the darkness began to take hold, he heard the second spearman
speak. But it was in a language that was not familiar.
"Enuch-t, tish velenium. Garebesh. Garebesh!" The voice yelled.
"Get up you bastards!" Captain Thurl yelled as he pounded on a drum.
It was the same routine every morning. The guards began to stir as he
walked slowly down the hall. It usually took three passes before
everyone was roused, but this morning seemed different. The new
inspector, the foreigner Vorn still slept, though by the look of his
face it was far from peaceful.
"Jemach, come back here and help me." Thurl and the soldier stood
over Vorn's cot and Thrul pounded on the drum again. "You, Vorn, wake
up!" Thurl yelled. "Get up. Get up!" He shook Vorn's shoulders and
the swordsman sat upright, eyes wide.
Out of reflex, Vorn glanced down at his stomach.
"What's wrong lad? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Vorn shook his head and rubbed his eyes. "Nothing's wrong. It was just a
nightmare. A bit of food will do wonders," he said as he rolled out of bed
and rubbed his stomach.
Morning came and
Kina, with a much refreshed mood about her, set forth placing the mats
on the table. Dallar was enthralled, staring relentlessly at Kanth
and he seemed mesmerized by her simple existence. He knew who she was
from the barracks, and Kanth likewise knew Dallar, but the two had
never spoken; that is until this morning. The young Phylinx could not
seem to contain himself chattering on about what nasty things he had
to clean. All the while, Kina cooked and smiled to herself. It seemed
her young boy had a bit of a crush. Despite his youth and lowly
status, he tried to boast about how important his job was and how he
was going to be an inspector one day too.
He did not seem to have any complaints of his jobs this morning, and
for that, Kina was glad. Most mornings it was just the opposite with
the lad bemoaning how the cooks pans were soooo heavy and how he
hated this or that. It was nice to see her boy forgetting his so
But then there was Shadow. He too seemed to crave this woman's
attention. It might have been fate, or maybe she just was not ready
to admit it to herself, but she began to feel something for the black
Siveran (citizen of Siverandora). Perhaps they were too different,
Kina and Shadow. After all, Kina had grown up in T'Aarn and was
accustomed to the human culture. Shadow no doubt had some distaste
Many seasons in the past, she had an opportunity to speak with a traveling Phylinx
elder and the old cat-man had nothing good to say of humans.
"I can't imagine why a Phylinx would live among them," the old man
balked. "They enslaved us for centur-r-ries. And now look at them!
They are sick and twisted. They mock the gods with every breath. I
tell you child, the gods should have destrroyed them all; not just
His wicked words seemed to haunt her how her own kind could harbor such a deep
hate. By all rights, even that old man had never been enslaved
himself, yet he held to the anger as if it was his right, his burden.
'Could Shadow think the same thoughts?' she asked herself. 'Does he
despise me for living this human life?' Thoughtlessly, she stirred the porridge over the fire pit. With a bit of effort she shook the thoughts
from her mind and scooped the rice mush into bowls and handed them
out at the table.
It was not much, but the porridge would last them through the morning.
With a bit of trepidation in her heart, she placed a tentative hand
on Shadow's shoulder as she stood behind him. If he could not accept
her, then she would simply have to live with that. Then she felt her
eyes begin to sting. Hurriedly she moved to tend the fire and finish
emptying the pot.
Shadow listened to Dallar like an uncle to a nephew, nodding his head and
probing with questions to stretch the young Phylinx’ story out even longer.
Shadow was fascinated with Dallar. He had such a promising life ahead of him, if
only they could get past all the prejudices.
Frequently during the conversation, the black Phylinx would sneak a peak at
Kina. Something was bothering her, and she just wasn’t in the mood to discuss
it. He arched an eyebrow and shrugged his shoulders towards Kanth. Perhaps he
would never understand the mind of a female. At times they seemed so alien and
their logic so confounding.
When Kina placed her hand on his shoulder, he straightened noticeably, somewhat
uncomfortably. His heart raced like a boy with a schoolyard crush. Were he not
covered with black fur from head to toe, he would certainly be blushing. He did
have feelings for this widow, it was no doubt obvious to Kanth as she sat back
and watched his reactions, but he was too inexperienced with the fairer sex to
know how to advance their relationship.
Kanth, feeling quite out of place and uncomfortable with the
interaction between her new companion and this stranger, sat still
and quiet, listening to the speedy words of the young lad. She
laughed once in a while at one of Dallar's words, but spoke very
Having only recently come from Siverandora, seeing this Phylinx
woman being so very modern and human-like was confusing and slightly
offensive to her. Having hot food, even as meager as Kina was able
to provide, was within itself, a gift from the woman.
Kanth lounged still and silent after the meal, taking in Dallar's
enthusiasm and energy, silently wishing to have that type of energy
herself. But, living the life of a rogue warrior took a lot out of
a woman, even at her young age.
"Where the devil is Blackblade?" Phineous eyed the courtyard from the
doorway of his office. "I want you to..." he paused to take a bite of
the turkey leg he held in his greasy fingers. "I want you to have the
guards alert me when he shows up."
"Do you want him arrested?" Thomas asked as he prepared to leave.
"No. I don't want anyone growing suspicious. Just tell them that I
have an assignment for him."
As Phineous watched his aid leave, he scowled. Some of his new
inspectors were doing just fine, but others... his gaze fell on the foreign swordsman, Vorn Volken. Others seemed too eager to solve the
crimes. 'That boy was so ecstatic about catching those followers of
the Old Empire. I wonder what he would think if he knew I set them
free.' The master inspector tossed the now bare bone out onto the
field. "That's the problem with amateurs," he said aloud as he
reentered his office, "they take this too seriously."
As the rooster started to crow, Cydric once again grabbed his bow and tried
to shoot the damn bird, but as usual missed. He realized that one day he
might actually get the damn bird, but he'd have to open his eyes first and
with that he dropped his bow onto his bed and rubbed the sleep from his
He quickly dressed and scrounged around his kitchen for something to eat.
Sadly all he had was either a small loaf of moldy bread, or a few
pieces of rotted fruit. Not being too picky, he grabbed the bread and decided to
try and eat around the mold as he tried to keep from gagging. Frustrated
he threw the loaf out the window along with the fruit. He'd just have to get
Stepping out his front door while puffing on his pipe a scowl crossed
his face as he realized the weather wasn't any better today than it had been
yesterday. A dark feeling came over him suddenly and he realized immediately
that today was not going to be a good day. Something dark was on the
Cydric touched his sword in reassurance and headed to the barracks. As he
passed an unwatched bakery stand he quickly snatched a loaf of fresh
sweetbread and scampered on. Maybe the day wouldn't be as bad as he had
thought, maybe it was just the mind set of a tired old man. Although he was
far from old, the life Cydric had lived was quite hard, and time wasn't
being very kind to him.
It occurred to him that around noon today he needed to find Sergei
and see about the tests of the poison. Cydric had a feeling he knew the
poison, and when Sergei told him he'd feel like a fool for not knowing it
sooner, but such was life. As he got to the barracks he was finishing up his
meager meal and that gloomy sense of dread began nagging at his chest again.
"I had a dreadful dream," Tithion said as he sipped his tea while
hunched over the modest cook's table.
"And what was that sir?" Said the old maid, Jenev. She was plump and
short, and a good natured sort that the noble always felt comfortable
talking to. She had a sisterly quality to her despite the fact that
she was a paid servant.
"I had laid down with a woman, someone familiar, though I do not
recall her name or face."
"Well that sounds like a fine dream. Especially for a man of your
age," she smiled as she poked his shoulder.
"Right enough," he managed a smile then looked back at the mug in his
hands. "That is just how it started. I suppose we had finished and I
was on the road in a wagon. I remember looking up at how tall the
clouds were and how blue was the sky. But then we ventured into
woods, and my cart was now a war chariot and I was in a race. The
clouds turned dark and smoky grey and the sun was blotted out by
these enormous trees. Strange trees too. Only parts of their limbs
were full of life, the rest looked like sickly fingers stretching out
to the sky to tear down the heavens."
"I suppose this is the part that troubles you?"
"Not yet you say? It sounds awfully suspenseful then. Go on."
"There was a ribbon of smoke that floated like a flag when held on
its side. I watched it with terrible focus and my chariot slowed.
Then the grey smoke split into pieces and spread out and devoured my
companions. I could not hear them scream, but I knew the meaning.
When I turned to flee, there before me stood an apparition. I tell you
it was a servant of Mortarius. I woke just as it reached for me."
"Good heavens, sir. I think you've been thinking about death and
destruction your entire life. I'm sure its nothing more than the
stress of the moment." Jenev smiled with a reassuring glow to her and
she squeezed his shoulders lightly.
"But what of its meaning? You do believe in reading dreams, I know."
"Oh, well if you want my 'professional' opinion, well you ain't
paying me enough for all that." Tithion broke a grin. "But it does
sound ominous. May haps you've channeled something, or something is
trying to warn you," she sighed with a bit of an exaggeration to
it. "Or it could just be your nerves. Either way, until you know more
about why you had the dream, you'll never know the meaning of it."
"I know, but its the players in the dream that concerns me. I've dabbled with the dream weaving before and have had limited success,
but this was as if I could feel the cold. I even smelled the ash on
bones of the one who reached for me."
"Well, forgive me sir, but I'm no dream weaver, and I think you're
taking this all too much to heart."
With a tired smile, Tithion replied simply, "perhaps you are right."